Friday, 15 August 2014

5 Must-See National TV Warriors Games This Season

The NBA released the 2014-15 season schedule on Wednesday and the Golden State Warriors, rewarded with another strong year will have a total of 19 National TV appearances (not including NBA TV). This upcoming season is a major test for the Warriors who seek to move into the upper echelon of the Western Conference. With that being said, let's take a quick look at the five National TV Golden State games you cannot miss.

Golden State vs Oklahoma City | December 18th, 2014 | TNT
Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry, two of the most elite point guards in the NBA will face off for the second time in the 2014-15 season but this will be the first meeting at the Oracle Arena. With widely distinct skillsets, look for Westbrook to attack aggressively off the dribble while Steph finds his range from downtown. Of course, we cannot forget the reigning MVP Kevin Durant. Last season, two of the three Warriors vs Thunder games came down to only one possession. This year may be no different.

Golden State @ LA Clippers | December 25th, 2014 | TNT
The two California teams who faced each other in last season's first round playoff matchup will once again take the big stage on Christmas Day. This game promises alley-oops, dunks and threes and course, it will be a physical one. Marresse Speights, Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut will do all they can to give Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan an earful. History says it may be possible that we see a lot of technicals and flagrants. While everyone is certain to tune in to LeBron's Miami return on this special occasion, the Dubs/Clips matchup is one that cannot be slept on.

Golden State vs Cleveland | January 9th, 2015 | ESPN
LeBron and the Cavaliers will make their only visit to Golden State on this date. Our eyes will all be on The King but let us not forget that Kevin Love will be in a Cavs jersey. Golden State reportedly was unwilling to part with Klay Thompson in a Love trade this offseason. Thus, this matchup could become an evaluation of whether the Warriors front office made the right decision for the team.

Golden State vs San Antonio | February 20th, 2015 | ESPN
Prior to the extended All-Star break, the Dubs will get another chance to face the defending NBA Champions on their home floor. The Warriors lost all four games against the Spurs last season and must solve the balanced San Antonio attack. This matchup will be an interesting one as it the possibility of Gregg Popovich resting Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and/or Manu Ginobili is intriguing.

Golden State vs Denver | April 15th, 2015 | ESPN
In the 2013 NBA Playoffs, the Golden State Warriors surprised and overwhelmed the Denver Nuggets without David Lee. Denver, an underrated team with depth at multiple positions will look to regroup with healthy bodies and make a playoff push this upcoming season. Just a year removed from their 57-win season, the Nuggets uptempo style alone will certainly make this matchup a must-watch. This game is the last game of the regular season for the Warriors and it could have playoff significance for seeding.

Which Warriors games are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments section below.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Making a case for trading Harrison Barnes

The Golden State Warriors drafted Harrison Barnes with the 7th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft hoping he could become one of the top two-way forwards in the league. Although Barnes had a mediocre showing during the regular season in his rookie year, he filled in remarkably well for the injured David Lee in the playoffs. As a result, the expectations for his sophomore season rose and many believed Barnes was primed for a breakout season. Unfortunately, Barnes' production has stayed relatively stagnant ever since while his efficiency has decreased. According to Basketball Reference, Harrison Barnes had a 9.8 PER last season which was well below the league average (15.0 PER). The addition of Andre Iguodala last summer which saw Barnes move into a 6th man role may have stunted the sophomore's development. However, while Barnes received a slight uptick in minutes, he experienced a fallback from a statistical standpoint. The small forward posted lower shooting percentages in multiple categories (.399 FG%, .347 3P%, .419 2P% and .718 FT% compared to .439 FG%, .359 3P%, .464 2P% and .758 FT%).

Harrison Barnes is only 22 years old and he definitely still has room to grow. He used mismatches to his advantage well by taking bigs off the dribble and posting up smaller guys in the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Yet, Barnes is not a particularly good shot creator for himself or playmaker for his teammates. He has played the best ball of his young career as a small-ball power forward but with the emergence of Draymond Green, could the Warriors use him as a trade chip to address other team needs? It is clear that Barnes and Green have fairly contrasting skill sets and they can coexist with each other on the floor. Frankly, when you also factor in Klay Thompson's upcoming extension (or new contract depending if he hits restricted free agency), Golden State will have limited financial flexibility even with the rising cap.

The Warriors are in win-now mode but they still have some holes to fill in the roster. Could they flip Barnes for a go-to-scorer off the bench and another asset or future compensation? New head coach Steve Kerr mentioned in his intro press conference that he would like to obtain a stretch four. Would they be able to use Barnes as a centerpiece in a trade for someone like Ryan Anderson or Ersan Ilyasova? Maybe Golden State tries experimenting with starting Harrison Barnes at the 4 and bringing David Lee off the bench in the preseason. Or perhaps the Warriors just ride it out with Barnes as the 6th man and he makes huge strides next season, proving he can lead the bench unit.

What do you think the Warriors should do with Harrison Barnes? Let me know in the comments section below.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Filling out the Warriors roster for training camp

Golden State made its biggest acquisition of the summer by using its full Mid-Level Exception on Shaun Livingston. While this was not a blockbuster move by any means, it does give the team a capable backup point guard behind Stephen Curry which they attempted to address last season in trading for veteran Steve Blake. Now, with 13 players under contract (one non-guaranteed) for next season, the Warriors will look to make minor additions in filling out their training camp roster. Due to their current cap situation (no MLE or BAE remaining), the team is limited to only "minimum guys" and undrafted rookies. Nevertheless, there are definitely serviceable players on the market when placed in the right environment.

Let's take a look at who the Warriors could potentially sign to round out the roster. 

Al Harrington
The Warriors are targeting a stretch four which would improve floor spacing and a reoccurring name this offseason is Kevin Love. Although Golden State would love to add another star in Love to pair with Curry, there are clearly cheaper options available without surrendering assets such as Klay Thompson. Al Harrington, the 16 year vet shot 34% from three-point territory last year with the Wizards and he could be had for minimum salary. In addition to shooting, Harrington would give the Warriors toughness inside as well as a veteran presence.

Byron Mullens
Mullens is another big man who has the ability to step outside and shoot the ball from deep. The former Sixers center shot 37% from downtown last season and had a good stint in Charlotte two years ago. If Mullens can regain his form and play rotational minutes at the four or five, he would be a viable option for Golden State.

Emeka Okafor
The past two years have seen Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli go down with injuries. Thus, it would not hurt to add depth and insurance at the center position. Okafor himself dealt with a herniated disc in his neck last year, missing the duration of the season. Looking to rebound off this injury, Emeka Okafor is an excellent get for the Warriors at the vet minimum. With career per game averages of 12.3 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks, Okafor is a physical interior presence who will assist in rim protection.

James Michael-McAdoo
McAdoo did not have a spectacular showing on the Warriors summer league squad but his energy and hustle may earn him a training camp invite. The former Tar Heel still struggles to get his own shot and is not much of an offensive threat. He can certainly improve from an efficiency standpoint (shot 42% from the field). Although McAdoo may lack the necessary tools to be a full-time starter, his physical frame, athleticism and versatility could make him a valuable rotation player. 

Yuki Togashi
The 5'7" Japanese point guard had a solid campaign with the Dallas Mavericks summer league team despite playing minimal minutes. Already a fan favorite, Togashi would instantly be welcomed by the highly populated Asian community in the Bay Area. Togashi displayed a nice tear drop over bigger defenders during the summer league and also scored 10 points in 12 minutes against the Charlotte Hornets. Could "Toga" be the next one to fill the Bazemore role?

Who would you like see the Warriors sign? Let me know in the comments section below. 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Detroit Pistons - NBA Offseason Outlook Series

4th in Central Division
11th in Eastern Conference
29-53 W-L Record

Team Leaders

Points: Josh Smith (16.4)
Rebounds: Andre Drummond (13.2)
Assists: Brandon Jennings (7.6)
Steals: Josh Smith (1.4)
Blocks: Andre Drummond (1.6)

Team Statistics

Points: 101.1 (14th)
Rebounds: 45.4 (3rd)
Assists: 20.9 (24th)
Points Allowed: 104.7 (27th)

Depth Chart

PG: Brandon Jennings, Will Bynum, Peyton Siva
SG: Kyle Singler, Rodney Stuckey, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Chauncey Billups 
SF: Josh Smith, Luigi Datome
PF: Greg Monroe, Jonas Jerebko, Charlie Villanueva, Tony Mitchell
C: Andre Drummond, Josh Harrellson

Financial Breakdown

Under Contract: Will Bynum ($2,915,908), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($2,772,480), Luigi Datome ($1,750,000), Andre Drummond ($2,568,360), Josh Harrellson ($948,163), Brandon Jennings ($8,000,000), Tony Mitchell ($816,482), Kyle Singler ($1,090,000), Peyton Siva ($816,482), Josh Smith ($13,500,000)

Free Agents: Chauncey Billups (Team Option), Jonas Jerebko (Player Option), Greg Monroe (Restricted), Rodney Stuckey (Unrestricted), Charlie Villanueva (Unrestricted)

Projected Cap Space: Approximately $28.0 million

Draft Picks

First Round: None
Second Round: 38th overall 

Team Needs

3-Point Shooting/Floor Spacers
The Pistons finished 29th in 3PT% this season and part of the cause was due to the fact that Josh Smith was playing out of his natural position. With Smith at small forward, the team lacked spacing and bad shots were forced up by guys like Smith and Jennings who both shot poor percentages from the field this year. The Pistons do not have a catch-and-shoot type of player, something they should look to invest in. Andre Drummond, only 20 years old is the building block of the future. With an emerging and dominant center and a first class coach in Stan Van Gundy, Detroit needs to surround Drummond with shooters who can space the floor and knock down the three ball in double-team situations. Van Gundy utilized this system of "4 in 1 out" in his Orlando days and it proved to be effective. He will look to implement something similar and turn the Pistons into playoff contenders.

Wing Depth
With a small forward rotation of Josh Smith, Kyle Singler, and Luigi Datome, the Pistons must look to add more bodies as they are weak on the wing. Smith is inefficient playing the three spot while Singler and Datome are utility players as opposed to starter material. Ideally, adding a 3-and-D rotational player would help with the floor spacing and improve the perimeter offense. With a good chunk of cap room and an early 2nd round pick, Detroit should address this need before next season.

Keepers & Draft/Free Agent/Trade Targets

Greg Monroe
Resigning Greg Monroe will be the top priority for the Pistons but they must find a taker for Josh Smith's albatross contract to create room for Drummond's extension down the road. It would not be an ideal move to keep both Monroe and Smith long term as they are both capable starters which would create a logjam at PF. Monroe is an underrated big man who can score and rebound and he is only getting better. The addition of Josh Smith may have stunted his growth and the team must decide who is a better fit for the roster. While Monroe should be retained, the decision will hinge on the Piston's ability to trade Smith this offseason. 

Jabari Brown
With only a second round pick in this year's draft, the Pistons will need to find a diamond in the rough. With a need for perimeter shooting, Detroit should target Jabari Brown from Missouri. The 6'5" shooting guard averaged just under 20 points per game while shooting 41% from downtown. Brown is an excellent spot-up shooter who would complement Jennings well. He is not great at generating his own shot and creating offense for others, but with other playmakers on the roster, it should not be a problem.

Cory Jefferson
In his tenure with the Magic, Stan Van Gundy paired stretch fours (Rashard Lewis, Ryan Anderson) with Dwight Howard to stretch the defense and it proved to be effective. Needing a forward who can shoot, the Pistons should look at Cory Jefferson. The power forward out of Baylor shot a respectable 37% from deep and has a solid midrange game. His athleticism and motor are also key attributes that should intrigue Detroit. With Drummond locked at center, a stretch four in Jefferson would be a potential option.

Mario Chalmers
If Detroit is looking for another playmaking guard, enter Mario Chalmers. Chalmers is often overlooked on a Miami Heat roster filled with attention centered around the Big 3. He has been an asset during Miami's title run although this year's playoffs, Chalmers was not as effective. With a depreciating stock, the Pistons should look to add the free agent point guard. Chalmers averaged 4.9 assists this season despite not being the primary ball handler. In addition, he is a threat from three point territory and would greatly help improve floor spacing.

Mike Miller
Another three point marksman who could contribute for the Pistons is Mike Miller. Miller shot 46% from downtown this season with the Grizzlies. He is a solid defender who has championship experience, winning two titles with the Miami Heat. For the Pistons, he would not be an expensive free agent option. Apart from stretching the floor, Miller would provide veteran experience.

Ryan Anderson
Anderson would be an excellent fit for the Pistons who lack shooting big man beside Drummond. Having played for Stan Van Gundy previously in Orlando, Anderson is one of the better stretch fours in the league. It will definitely be hard for Detroit to pry Anderson from the Pelicans unless they can take on Eric Gordon's contract. However, this would be a bold move if the Pistons believe they can be playoff contenders as early as next season.

Wilson Chandler
The Nuggets do not have much financial flexibility until the 2015-16 season. As a result, many of the players may be potentially on the trade market for the right price. For the Pistons, they should inquire about Wilson Chandler who brings a 3-and-D skillset to the table. With much needed depth at the wing, trading for Chandler would give them a versatile forward who could guard four different positions. His ability to provide floor spacing and his athleticism would also be welcomed. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

NBA Offseason Transactions 2014

July 4th, 2014

Toronto Raptors receive: G Diante Garret

Utah Jazz receive: F Steve Novak, future second round pick


June 30th, 2014

Brooklyn Nets receive: 2015 second round pick, 2019 second round pick

Milwaukee Bucks receive: Head Coach Jason Kidd


June 29th, 2014

Atlanta Hawks receive: G/F John Salmons, 2015 second round pick

Toronto Raptors receive: G Lou Williams, C Lucas Nogueira 


June 26th, 2014 (Draft Night)

Chicago Bulls receive: F Doug McDermott, F Anthony Randolph

Denver Nuggets receive: C Jusuf Nurkic, G Gary Harris, 2015 second round pick


Orlando Magic receive: G Elfrid Payton

Philadelphia 76ers receive: F Dario Saric, 2015 second round pick, 2017 first round pick


Charlotte Hornets receive: G P.J. Hairston, G Semaj Christon, 2019 second round pick, cash

Miami Heat receive: G Shabazz Napier


Memphis Grizzlies receive: F Jarnell Stokes

Utah Jazz receive: 2015 second round pick


Atlanta Hawks receive: G Lamar Patterson 

Milwaukee Bucks receive: 2015 second round pick


Los Angeles Lakers receive: G Jordan Clarkson

Washington Wizards receive: cash


New Orleans Pelicans receive: G Russ Smith

Philadelphia 76ers receive: G Pierre Jackson


Charlotte Hornets receive: cash

Oklahoma City Thunder receive: G Semaj Christon


Indiana Pacers receive: cash

New York Knicks receive: PF/C Louis Labeyrie


Philadelphia 76ers receive: G Jordan McRae, F Cory Jefferson

San Antonio Spurs receive: F Nemanja Dangubic


Brooklyn Nets receive: G/F Markel Brown, G Xavier Thames, F Cory Jefferson

Minnesota Timberwolves receive: cash

Philadelphia 76ers receive: cash

Toronto Raptors receive: cash


June 26th, 2014

Denver Nuggets receive: G/F Arron Afflalo

Orlando Magic receive: G/F Evan Fournier, 2014 56th overall pick


June 25th, 2014

New Orleans Pelicans receive: C Omer Asik, cash

Houston Rockets receive: 2015 first round pick


June 25th, 2014 

Dallas Mavericks receive: C Tyson Chandler, G Raymond Felton

New York Knicks receive: G Jose Calderon, C Samuel Dalembert, G Wayne Ellington, G Shane Larkin, 2014 34th overall pick & 2014 51st overall pick

Monday, 23 June 2014

Cleveland Cavaliers - NBA Offseason Outlook Series

3rd in Central Division
10th in Eastern Conference
33-49 W-L Record

Team Leaders

Points: Kyrie Irving (20.8)
Rebounds: Anderson Varejao (9.7)
Assists: Kyrie Irving (6.1)
Steals: Kyrie Irving (1.5)
Blocks: Anderson Varejao (0.6)

Team Statistics

Points: 98.2 (22nd)
Rebounds: 44.1 (11th)
Assists: 21.2 (20th)
Points Allowed: 101.5 (16th)

Depth Chart

PG: Kyrie Irving, Jarrett Jack, Matthew Dellavedova
SG: C.J. Miles, Dion Waiters, Sergey Karasev 
SF: Luol Deng, Alonzo Gee, Carrick Felix, Scotty Hopson
PF: Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett
C: Spencer Hawes, Anderson Varejao, Tyler Zeller

Financial Breakdown

Under Contract: Anthony Bennett ($5,563,920), Matthew Dellavedova ($816,482), Carrick Felix ($816,482), Alonzo Gee ($3,000,000), Scotty Hopson ($1,450,878), Kyrie Irving ($7,070,730), Jarrett Jack ($6,300,000), Sergey Karasev ($1,533,840), Tristan Thompson ($5,138,430), Anderson Varejao ($9,704,595), Dion Waiters ($4,062,000), Tyler Zeller ($1,703,760)

Free Agents: Luol Deng (Unrestricted), Spencer Hawes (Unrestricted), C.J. Miles (Unrestricted)

Projected Cap Space: Approximately $16.1 million

Draft Picks

First Round: 1st overall
Second Round: 33rd overall (From Orlando)

Team Needs

Interior Presence
The Cavs are a decent defensive team but lack a true rim protecting center and inside scorer. Anderson Varejao's natural position is power forward and he operates mostly in the high post while Spencer Hawes (free agent) is a stretch 5 who takes more mid range and long distance jumpers than post shots. Cleveland needs someone who can protect the paint on the defensive end and score inside in the offensive end. Points in the paint have direct correlation to a team's winning percentage as scoring inside the restricted area is much easier than outside the perimeter. Therefore, acquiring a big man who is capable of creating his own offense in the post will be key for the Cavaliers moving forward.

Long Term Small Forward
Since LeBron James' departure, a huge void has been left at the small forward position. Alonzo Gee was the primary starter until the addition of Luol Deng. However, the Deng experiment did not work too well and the Cavs find themselves looking for a long term small forward once again. Will LeBron come home this summer? Perhaps, but it is highly unlikely. Cleveland should instead turn their focus to budding forwards available in this year's draft or try to trade for established player with the bundle of assets they have (draft picks, expiring and non-guaranteed contracts, young players). Another route would be to use the great deal of cap space to sign an impact player at the 3.

Keepers & Draft/Free Agent/Trade Targets

Spencer Hawes
Cleveland acquired Hawes at the trade deadline in an effort to make a push for the playoffs. Ultimately, the Cavs fell short but Hawes looked like he could be part of the future. His ability to stretch the floor (42% 3PT) and make good passes (3.0 ast) were instrumental in creating spacing for Irving and Waiters to operate. While Hawes does not offer rim protection, he is a solid rebounder and decent shot blocker. At 26, Spencer Hawes is right in his prime and could contribute greatly to a rising Cavs squad.

Joel Embiid
Embiid was the consensus 1st overall pick in many mock drafts before his foot injury was announced. With major red flags surrounding his health now, Embiid is a huge gamble for any team wishing to draft him. Despite his recent injury, Cleveland desperately needs a long term center and they should definitely consider the big man from Cameroon. When healthy, Embiid is a game changing center on both ends of the floor. Per 40 minutes, Embiid averaged 19.4 points, 14.0 rebounds and 4.5 blocks this year. Many scouts suggest his ceiling is Hakeem Olajuwon while his basement is Serge Ibaka. Embiid's upside is undeniable and potential pairing him up with All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving would form a dangerous duo.

Jabari Parker
If the Cavaliers take the safe route, Jabari Parker is the way to go. Parker is the most NBA-ready of all the prospects and he hones a offensive skillset that would provide the Cavs with needed scoring. The main question regarding Parker is his position. At 6'8", it is still uncertain whether he is a small forward or power forward in the NBA in the long run. His lateral movement and defense is also a slight concern but that can be taught at the next level if he is willing to put the work in. Cleveland made a questionable selection by drafting Anthony Bennett last year. Going with Jabari Parker in this year's hyped draft would be a conservative and realistic choice.

Trevor Ariza
The Cavs will make a strong pitch to LeBron this summer but they should also target Trevor Ariza. Ariza is a solid wing defender who greatly improved his three-point shooting this season. As a complement to Wall and Beal, Ariza was utilized as a spot-up shooter and occasional playmaker in the halfcourt setting. For a team that needs a wing defender and a long term small forward, Ariza would thrive with the Cavs because of his ability to play off the ball which is attributed to his low usage rate. The long and athletic swingman makes a lot of sense for the Cavs in free agency because of his price tag too, which will be more affordable than Luol Deng.

Marcin Gortat
Once a backup for Dwight Howard, Marcin Gortat is one of the premier centers in the NBA. The "Polish Hammer" had a productive season with the Washington Wizards and played a crucial role in their playoff run. Looking for a big payday this offseason, Gortat would be an ideal fit for Cleveland. His ability to protect the rim would allow Varejao to play more minutes at his natural power forward position. In addition, Gortat would be a good option for the pick-and-roll with Kyrie Irving. If the Cavs believe drafting Embiid is too big of a risk, they should look to Gortat in FA.

Harrison Barnes
Cleveland had a chance to take Harrison Barnes with the 4th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft but chose Dion Waiters instead. Barnes is not necessarily being shopped by the Warriors but he could be attainable for the right package. Barnes is a two-way player who has the versatility to play/guard four positions. He excels in one-on-one situations where he pulls-up mid-range or drives to the rim. Barnes is the type of player who would be most suitable for a supporting role on a team where he is not faced with pressure to create for himself. In last year's playoffs, Barnes filled in admirably for the injured David Lee and looked ready to take his game to the next level. However, the addition of Andre Iguodala may have stunted his growth. Since Harrison Barnes is only 22, there is certainly room for development and he can be a matchup problem for some teams when utilized in small-ball situations. With a void at small forward and loaded with assets, the Cavs should definitely inquire about the former North Carolina Tar Heel.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Chicago Bulls - NBA Offseason Outlook Series

2nd in Central Division
4th in Eastern Conference
48-34 W-L Record

Team Leaders

Points: D.J. Augustin (14.9)
Rebounds: Joakim Noah (11.3)
Assists: Joakim Noah (5.4)
Steals: Jimmy Butler (1.9)
Blocks: Joakim Noah (1.5)

Team Statistics

Points: 93.7 (30th)
Rebounds: 44.1 (10th)
Assists: 22.7 (10th)
Points Allowed: 91.8 (1st)

Depth Chart

PG: Kirk Hinrich, D.J. Augustin, Mike James, Derrick Rose (IL)
SG: Jimmy Butler, Ronnie Brewer, Jimmer Fredette
SF: Mike Dunleavy, Tony Snell
PF: Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, Lou Amundson
C: Joakim Noah, Nazr Mohammed, Greg Smith

Financial Breakdown

Under Contract: Lou Amundson ($1,310,286), Carlos Boozer ($16,800,000), Ronnie Brewer ($1,310,286), Jimmy Butler ($2,008,748), Mike Dunleavy ($3,326,235), Taj Gibson ($8,000,000), Mike James ($1,448,490), Joakim Noah ($12,200,000), Derrick Rose ($18,862,876), Greg Smith ($948,163), Tony Snell ($1,472,400)

Free Agents: D.J. Augustin (Unrestricted), Jimmer Fredette (Unrestricted) , Kirk Hinrich (Unrestricted), Nazr Mohammed (Unrestricted)

Projected Cap Space: None (Approximately $4.4 million over salary cap)

Draft Picks

First Round: 16th overall (From Charlotte), 19th overall 
Second Round: 49th overall

Team Needs

Scoring/Outside Shooting
The Bulls led the league in points allowed, but finished dead last in points. In simpler words, Chicago's defense was top notch while their offense was a disaster. With Tom Thibodeau at the helm, the Bulls have organically produced and developed players who play good team defense. The one major need that must be addressed this offseason is adding a scorer who can stretch the floor and create matchup problems. With no cap space this summer, the Bulls are mainly limited to the draft or through a trade.

Backup Big Man
This year, Taj Gibson assumed a larger role and looks primed to move into the starting lineup for next season. With that being said, Chicago's backup big man rotation will be extremely thin as Nazr Mohammed will be a free agent, Lou Amundson is on a non-guaranteed contract (could be used as trade bait), and Carlos Boozer is a potential amnesty candidate. Chicago's system is centered upon defense and they will need a backup rim protective big to give Joakim Noah a breather. 

Keepers & Draft/Free Agent/Trade Targets

D.J. Augustin
After being waived by the Toronto Raptors, Augustin was picked up by the Chicago Bulls. The absence of Derrick Rose and injuries to Kirk Hinrich paved the way for Augustin to emerge as an unexpected surprise pacing the Bulls at 14.9 points per game. With Rose returning next season and Hinrich also a free agent, the Bulls should prioritize resigning Augustin who provided excellent offensive production off the bench. As a lethal three point shooter, Augustin gives Chicago a distributor and scoring weapon. Chicago should be able to afford the 6-year guard with the Mid-Level Exception.

Nik Stauskas
Stauskas, a sophomore shooting guard from Michigan improved greatly from his freshmen season. One of the best shooters in the nation, Stauskas averaged 17.5 points per game on 44% shooting from downtown. He has great basketball IQ, plays solid defense and can score in a variety of ways. His offensive game is very Klay Thompson-esque. For a team in need of scoring, Stauskas would be an excellent addition for the Bulls, sliding in at the off guard spot.     

James Young
If the Bulls are looking for a pure scorer, they should look no further than James Young. Young, a freshmen shooting guard from Kentucky averaged 14.3 points per game for the Wildcats. His shooting stroke, size and age (turning 19 in August) will attract NBA suitors, though he must improve his decision making and shooting efficiency at the next level. The Bulls could use a scoring guard beside Derrick Rose and Young would definitely be an intriguing fit.

Patty Mills
Patty Mills performed exceptionally well during The NBA Finals and he will certainly be due for a huge raise this summer. Per 36 mins, he averaged 19.5 points, 3.5 assists and 1.6 steals during the regular season. In the playoffs, Mills was on fire from downtown and served as a scoring punch off the bench. If the Bulls cannot retain D.J. Augustin, Mills would be a viable option who could be a "Nate Robinson" type of player for Chicago.

Emeka Okafor
Chicago has not had true frontcourt depth since they lost Omer Asik. Okafor, who is coming off a neck injury will not be making as much as he did this year ($14.5 million) and may be had for the vet minimum, depending on the league-wide interest. The 2005 Rookie of the Year has career averages of 12 points and 10 rebounds and that alone should intrigue the Bulls. Okafor would give Chicago rebounding and an interior presence while allowing Taj Gibson to play more of his minutes at power forward.

Greg Stiemsma
Another big man who can provide rim protection and shot blocking is Greg Stiemsma. Stiemsma was released by the Pelicans late-season and had a sub-par statistical season. If he can display similar potential in his first NBA season, the Bulls would be getting a steal for a cheap option at backup center at the minimum contract.

Arron Afflalo
The Bulls would love to add a marquee star in the likes of Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Love. While the possibility of trading for a player of Anthony or Love's caliber is low, one of the more attainable players on the trade market is Arron Afflalo, who is a good fit for the Bulls system. Afflalo had a career year with the Orlando Magic averaging 18.2 points per game. His on-ball defense is above average and he is an excellent shooter from distance. The Magic are in the midst of a rebuild and it would make sense to capitalize on Afflalo's trade value while it is at its peak. Meanwhile, Afflalo is the perfect running mate for Derrick Rose. He does not need the ball in his hands to be effective and would also be able to guard opposing point guards and take pressure off of Rose. Chicago is a piece away from moving into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference and Afflalo may be the missing piece.  

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Philadelphia 76ers - NBA Offseason Outlook Series

5th in Atlantic Division
14th in Eastern Conference
19-63 W-L Record

Team Leaders

Points: Thaddeus Young (17.9)
Rebounds: Michael Carter-Williams (6.2)
Assists: Michael Carter-Williams (6.3)
Steals: Thaddeus Young (2.1)
Blocks: Jarvis Varnado (1.3)

Team Statistics

Points: 99.5 (19th)
Rebounds: 42.7 (15th)
Assists: 21.8 (15th)
Points Allowed: 109.9 (30th)

Depth Chart

PG: Michael Carter-Williams, Casper Ware, Adonis Thomas
SG: James Anderson, Tony Wroten, Elliot Williams
SF: Hollis Thompson, Jason Richardson
PF: Thaddeus Young, Arnett Moultrie, Nerlens Noel
C: Henry Sims, Byron Mullens, Brandon Davies, Jarvis Varnado

Financial Breakdown

Under Contract: James Anderson ($981,084), Michael Carter-Williams ($2,300,040), Brandon Davies ($816,482), Arnett Moultrie ($1,136,160), Nerlens Noel ($3,315,120), Jason Richardson ($6,601,125), Henry Sims ($915,243), Hollis Thompson ($816,482), Jarvis Varnado ($915,243), Elliot Williams ($981,084), Tony Wroten ($1,210,080), Thaddeus Young ($9,410,869)

Free Agents: Byron Mullens (Player Option), Adonis Thomas (Restricted), Casper Ware (Unrestricted)

Projected Cap Space: Approximately $33.9 million

Draft Picks

First Round: 3rd overall, 10th overall (From New Orleans)
Second Round: 32nd overall, 39th overall (From Cleveland), 47th overall (From Brooklyn via Dallas & Boston), 52nd overall (From Memphis via Cleveland), 54th overall (From Houston via Milwaukee)

Team Needs

Star Power/Talent
The 76ers went into a full-blown rebuild when they traded away All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel and the Pelicans 2014 1st round pick, packaged Evan Turner to Indiana and Spencer Hawes to Cleveland mid-season, and signed several D-League players on 10-day contracts for the rest of the season. With an abundance of assets such as multiple draft picks and non-guaranteed contracts, the Sixers will look to use them to acquire young talent through the draft or in trades. Apart from Carter-Williams and Noel, the majority of the current roster may not be part of the team's future. The team will probably receive calls for power forward Thaddeus Young and will need to evaluate the best deal they can get for him. The squad is definitely a few years away from playoff contention and an influx of talent and star power is certainly needed.

With a bench mostly made of D-League players and young prospects, Philadelphia will need to retool its roster by adding wing defenders, athletic bigs, playmaking guards, etc. The 76ers have to fill essentially every position especially adding a two-way forward and complementary guard for MCW. Having given up a league worst 109.9 points per game this season, it is crucial for the Sixers to add a defensive anchor in the middle and also solid swingmen who can defend multiple positions. A scorer off the bench would be ideal as well.

Keepers & Draft/Free Agent/Trade Targets

Jabari Parker
Parker is probably the most NBA-ready of all the prospects. He is a natural scorer and possesses high basketball IQ. As a freshmen at Duke, Parker led his team in scoring (19.1 pts) and rebounding (8.7 reb) per game. The Sixers desperately need a go-to-scorer and Parker can be just that. With a healthy Nerlens Noel next season who can cover up Parker's defensive short comings, Parker is the safest pick for Philly, one who is expected to contribute like MCW right away.

Andrew Wiggins
If Parker is off the board when the Sixers are on the clock, Wiggins would not be a bad consolation prize. The Kansas product would indeed be a great fit on a young team as an athletic two-way player with extreme upside. Philadelphia finished 1st in the league in pace this season which would play well with Wiggins' motor and strengths as a dynamic open-court athlete. In Kansas, Wiggins did not have freedom to create as often as he would like within the offensive system. However, with Brett Brown's free-flowing and uptempo structure, Wiggins will have no problem getting buckets.

Gary Harris
Harris may be the most well-rounded shooting guard in the draft. As a sophomore this season at Michigan State, Harris paced the team in points (16.7) and lead the charge on defense (1.8 steals). The 6'4" shooting guard hones an arsenal of offensive moves and shoots the ball deep pretty well. His above average defense compensates for his height disadvantage and his ability to play off the ball would complement Michael Carter-Williams well. As a 3-and-D player, he would provide stability at the 2-guard position in the long run.
Dario Saric
Another option to fill up the frontcourt would be to take a flier in Dario Saric. Saric, a 6'10" forward from Lithuania has a diverse offensive game and can stretch the floor well with his 3-point range. As a natural scorer and solid rebounder, Saric is the definition of the stretch four. He is too big at the small forward position and lacks the lateral quickness to guard the 3 spot. Thus, slotting him at power forward gives the Sixers a mirror to Noel's game which is predicated on protecting the rim, rebounding, and banging down low. If he is available at number 10, Dario Saric would be a good gamble for the 76ers.

Thanasis Antekounmpo
With three second round picks, the Sixers can afford to develop a player or two or "draft and stash" a prospect overseas. Thanasis Antekounmpo (older brother of  Giannis Antekounmpo the "Greek Freak"), a forward for the Delaware 87ers displayed immense potential this year in the NBA D-League and should be on Philly's radar. Blessed with blazing athleticism and speed, the older Antekoumpo is dangerous in transition and plays great on-ball defense. However, his offensive skills are still incredibly raw and he will need to certainly develop some sort of mid-range game to have an impact in the NBA. If the Sixers decide to take him with one of their second rounders, do not expect the "other Greek Freak" to play big minutes right off the bat.

Kent Bazemore
While the Sixers will have a pool of cap space this summer, it would make sense to avoid spending big bucks on high-tier free agents but rather target mid-level players until the team is ready to make a playoff run. One such mid-level player is Kent Bazemore who is more known for his bench celebrations but certainly showed he is capable of playing rotational minutes when he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. The undrafted guard out of Old Dominion is an athletic swingman who plays good defense and developed an improve long-range shot. He would be an excellent fit to Philadelphia's uptempo offense and provide energy off the bench. While Bazemore is due to a raise, his price will not be too high for the Sixers as he only made the minimum this year.

Xavier Henry
As a former lottery pick, Henry has played on three different teams in his four year career. In his latest stop with the Lakers, Henry posted career highs across the board and proved he still had untapped potential. The 76ers could use a scoring guard off the bench and Henry fits into their offensive schemes. Henry is a good attacker off the dribble who can get to the rim and draw fouls, but needs to work on his shooting. Making less than a million this season, Henry will definitely command a bigger contract and Philly could offer something in the lines of the Mid-Level Exception while preserving their cap space for the future.

Thabo Sefolosha
With a need for a defensive identity, the Sixers could look to add Sefolosha this summer. Near the end of the season, Scott Brooks opted to use Caron Butler instead of Sefolosha in the Thunder rotation. A change of scenery would greatly benefit Sefolosha's career. The 76ers have a huge need for a defensive wing who can take on the opposing team's best player. With upwards of $30 million in cap space, Philadelphia can offer Sefolosha more money than the Thunder. Provided the multi-year deal is less than three years, the Sixers would still have clear books to chase marquee superstars in 2015 & 2016 when they are ready to contend.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Toronto Raptors - NBA Offseason Outlook Series

1st in Atlantic Division
3rd in Eastern Conference
48-34 W-L Record

Team Leaders

Points: DeMar DeRozan (22.7)
Rebounds: Jonas Valanciunas (8.8)
Assists: Kyle Lowry (7.4)
Steals: Kyle Lowry (1.5)
Blocks: Amir Johnson (1.1)

Team Statistics

Points: 101.3 (13th)
Rebounds: 42.5 (17th)
Assists: 21.2 (21st)
Points Allowed: 98.0 (7th)

Depth Chart

PG: Kyle Lowry, Greivis Vasquez, Dwight Buycks, Julyan Stone 
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Nando de Colo, Landry Fields
SF: Terrence Ross, John Salmons, Steve Novak
PF: Amir Johnson, Patrick Patterson, Tyler Hansbrough
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Chuck Hayes

Financial Breakdown

Under Contract: Dwight Buycks ($816,482), DeMar DeRozan ($9,500,000), Landry Fields ($6,250,000), Tyler Hansbrough ($3,326,235), Chuck Hayes ($5,958,750), Amir Johnson ($7,000,000), Steve Novak ($3,445,947), Terrence Ross ($2,793,960), John Salmons ($7,000,000), Jonas Valanciunas ($3,678,360)

Free Agents: Nando de Colo (Qualifying Offer), Kyle Lowry (Unrestricted), Patrick Patterson (Qualifying Offer), Julyan Stone (Unrestricted), Greivis Vasquez (Qualifying Offer)  

Projected Cap Space: Approximately $13.4 million

Draft Picks

First Round: 20th overall
Second Round: 37th overall (From Sacramento), 59th overall (From Oklahoma City via New York)

Team Needs

Frontcourt Depth/Upgrade
Toronto has a promising, young center in Jonas Valanciunas, but the rest of the frontcourt is in need of an upgrade. Amir Johnson is a serviceable big man who can occasionally knock down the 3 and Patrick Patterson is a nice stretch-4. Behind them, Tyler Hansbrough and Chuck Hayes receive minimal minutes in the rotation and provide energy in spurts. At best, most of these guys are just solid role players. In the long-term, these big men do not seem to fit in the big picture with the exception of Valanciunas. Trading for a more established power forward/center makes complete sense for an organization looking to build upon this season's success. In addition, acquiring a back-up small forward who possesses 3-and-D ability would also be beneficial.

Veteran Experience
The Raptors exceeded expectations this year as they finished third in the Eastern Conference and won the Atlantic Division for the 2nd time in franchise history. However, in the playoffs, they ran into a tough and experienced Brooklyn squad, eventually falling in seven games and failing to advance to the next round. As a young and upcoming team, Toronto should target veterans with playoff experience who are still capable of producing to help bolster their bench. With a relatively young core, the Raptors could certainly use some locker room guys who would provide a calm veteran presence and keep teammates accountable.

Keepers & Draft/Free Agent/Trade Targets

Kyle Lowry
While DeMar DeRozan was selected as a reserve for the Eastern Conference All-Star team, Kyle Lowry was arguably the Raptors most important player this season. Lowry posted career highs in multiple categories and became the leader of the team after Rudy Gay was traded to the Kings. In addition to scoring and playmaking, Lowry showed the willingness to sacrifice his body to take charges and take initiative in making big-time plays down the stretch. This breakout season will certainly allow Lowry to cash in this summer as a unrestricted free agent. Even if it means slightly overpaying their star point guard, retaining Lowry is definitely the biggest priority for the Raptors. The fanbase would be extremely disappointed to lose the heart and soul of the franchise.

Greivis Vasquez
Although there may be redundancy in re-signing Greivis Vasquez if Kyle Lowry comes back, it is evident that Vasquez's skill set complements Lowry's well. As a back-up point guard, Vasquez played significant minutes at the shooting guard slot with Lowry. His ability to play off the ball and knock down the three ball gives Lowry the space to operate and create scoring opportunities. Additionally, Vasquez is also an underrated passer who averaged 9.0 dimes per game in the 2012-13 season as a member of the New Orleans Hornets. As a restricted free agent, Toronto has the option to match any offer and should do so if the price is right.

Clint Capela
Capela, a power forward/center from Switzerland is projected to go in the mid-to-late first round of the draft, right within the range of the Raptors 20th overall selection. His athleticism and ability to defend the pick and roll will intrigue the Raptors. As a player who has played professionally in France, Capela would probably need some time to adjust to the NBA level. For that reason, he would be more of a long term project where the team develops his raw potential. Thus, instant contribution would not expected and it would also be safe for him to gain experience in the D-League. Because of the Raptors' need for front court depth, he is an ideal prospect for them.

Adreian Payne
Payne is a NBA-ready prospect who could contribute to a playoff team right away. His brilliant play during the 2014 NCAA March Madness tournament displayed his versatility as a stretch forward who can play inside and outside. As a senior at Michigan State this season, Payne showed that he was the leader of the team. Although he possesses less upside compared to other draft prospects, Payne is well-polished, fundamentally sound, and highly athletic. If the Raptors decide to let Patrick Patterson leave via free agency, they should consider taking Adreian Payne with their first round pick.

Vince Carter
Entering the twilight of his career, Carter may only have a couple seasons left in his tank. Vince Carter, a former Raptor played an instrumental role in putting Toronto on the map in the early 2000s. A reunion with the 8-time All-Star makes tons of sense for a team searching for veteran leadership and a locker room guy. Carter was productive off the bench this season averaging 12 pts for the second unit. As a free agent, Carter will not be seeking the most lucrative deal, but rather a good-fit. With the ability to consistently knock down threes and rise up to the occasion during clutch time, Carter to the Raptors would be an ideal homecoming.  

Shawn Marion
If the Raptors are looking for an inexpensive option at the small forward position, Shawn Marion would be a nice target. Like Carter, Marion will not be demanding a lot of money this summer and will look to latch onto a playoff contending team as his career winds down. The Raptors need a defensive stopper and Marion fits the bill. His ability to defend multiple positions will take pressure off of DeRozan and Lowry. In addition, Marion brings leadership and experience to the table. As a 2011 NBA Champion, the "Matrix" would show the Raptors how to get to the top.

Thaddeus Young
The Toronto Raptors do not necessarily need to make a splash this offseason. However, if the team feels that acquiring a proven player is more beneficial than developing young talent, the team could opt to trade their assets and cash in on a player now. Thaddeus Young is one of the players available on the trade market and his price tag is reasonable. A potential trade package could involved the Raptors 2014 1st rounder and a combination of the non-guaranteed contracts of John Salmons, Amir Johnson, Tyler Hansbrough, and Dwight Buycks. The Sixers are looking to build for the future by stockpiling on picks and opening up salary relief. Thus, this deal makes sense for both sides. For the Raptors, Young and Valanciunas would form a dynamic frontcourt. At 25, Young had one of the best seasons statistically for the Sixers averaging 17.9 ppg and he is just entering the prime of his career. With Toronto looking to advance further into the postseason, acquiring Young would be an excellent addition.